Coming to consoles after a successful launch on PC late last year, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is preparing to kickstart the franchise with a new audience. It’s in good hands it would seem, as while the gameplay remains a product of a bygone era, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation looks every bit the modern production that it should.
Remarkably, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation appears to look better on consoles than it did on PC. Perhaps it’s the extra months of development or the standardised technical specification, but even compared to the maxed-out PC version, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is a very good looking title. The brief introduction revealing the backstory for Daniel Garner, and his reason for killing anything that moves, quickly launches into the core gameplay experience: Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is fundamentally about the shooting action.
Within a few seconds of beginning the videogame Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is already throwing dozens of enemies at you all at once. The weakest is its catalogue of fiends, of course, the skeletons and undead knights can only attack at very close range, so the familiar tactic of running backwards and using your razor blade cannon – the Soul Catcher – to line them up and take out multiple enemies in a single shot plays all well and good. If you were playing first-person shooters (FPS) a decade ago, you’ll feel right at home here.
Nothing changes when you introduce a second player – apart from the timer dictated revival system and thus the checkpointing system, of course – with Painkiller: Hell & Damnation an open platform for your own preferred gameplay designs as opposed to a scripted journey. This, without a doubt, is a hark back to a bygone age. A time before DOOM 3 decided environment was more important than enemy placement, prior to Quake IV’s awkward placement of science-fiction schlock ahead of space marine blasting action and most certainly before Call of Duty redefined the genre for an audience which had come of age in the high-definition era.
With this is mind, it’s refreshing to see that Painkiller: Hell & Damnation makes all the right moves with its gameplay set-up. Players can opt for different difficulty settings when fighting side-by-side, locally or online, and the competitive multiplayer gameplay modes remain as aggressively paced as they were more than a decade ago. Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is most certainly a videogame made for those who have grown-up with the genre, recognising that times have changed and – despite the best efforts of Gearbox Software – have felt under whelmed by Duke Nukem Forever’s indecision as to whether it wanted to modernise or revel in its ‘90s glory. As a videogame that originally launched in 2000, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is a convincing example of the latter.